An Example of Innovation
By H.H. Jayapataka Swami
Innovation is an important aspect of spreading the Hare Krsna movement, and congregational preaching could greatly benefit from new ideas. The month of Damodara (October–November in the Roman calendar), also known as Kartika,offers us the opportunity to be innovative. Srila Prabhupada said that the Damodara month is a good time to bring new people to Krsna consciousness, and the sastras say that during this month, service performed for the satisfaction of Lord Krsna bestows unlimited benefit.
In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the congregational devotees use this special opportunity to engage people in devotional service. For the past few years, during this most auspicious month they have organized programs every night in different homes. In a program that lasts about half an hour, they display the picture of Mother Yasoda binding Krsna (Damodara), offer lamps, perform kirtana, and at the end serve prasadam. The hosting family then keeps the picture as a gift.
In the first year, the congregational devotees’ combined efforts blessed over two hundred homes with the performance of such Damodara vrata. People in neighboring flats would hear the melodious kirtana and think, “They are getting so much mercy!” They would appear in the doorway and ask, “Why don’t you also come to my house?” The next year the devotees increased the program, holding Damodara kirtanas in six hundred homes.
Many years ago, when I did a tour of Malaysia, I attended a program in a big hall decorated with banners proclaiming the glories of Damodara month with quotes from different Puranas. (The Vedic literature gives so much evidence on how dear this month is to Lord Krsna. In this month one’s forefathers can be delivered if devotee in the family offers lamps. Most importantly, in this month one can be awarded pure devotional service). The lights in the hall dimmed and a procession of young children holding candles appeared. One child held something that looked like a flute but was in fact a scroll. He handed the scroll to me, and the message revealed the devotees’ plan for glorifying Lord Damodara, “Our goal is to hold the Damodara program in 1,008 homes during the Kartika month!” When I read the statement aloud, the whole audience of congregational devotees cheered and chanted Hare Krsna. The Malaysian devotees spent the entire next year preparing the event, and everything was organized very practically. Their strategic planning paid off: they held programs in 1,300 homes and a total of 12,000 ghee lamps were offered to Lord Damodara. Because of this campaign many new people got a taste of Krsna consciousness. And the devotees keep inviting those newcomers to continue relishing the nectar of devotional service by coming to Nama-hatta programs and temple festivals.
This is very innovative and potent program based on the scriptures. This type oprogram may be held during other auspicious occasions, such as the appearance and disappearance days of previous acaryas and on Ekadasis. The month of Vaisakha (April–May) is another auspicious time for performing vratas. Whenever there’s an opportunity to take advantage of the mercy, devotees can organize special initiatives to increase and expand devotional service.
(This article describes the launching of the program in Malaysia on a grand-scale nearly 10 years ago)